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updated: 7/25/2011 3:09 PM

Hawthorn Woods author tells kids to end the silence

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  • Author Dee Dee Sutherland reinforces anti-bullying tools with one of the children in the audience after her presentation at Harper College.

      Author Dee Dee Sutherland reinforces anti-bullying tools with one of the children in the audience after her presentation at Harper College.
    Courtesy Erin Brooks/Harper College

  • With Dee Dee Sutherland in the back, Jarod Patton of Carpentersville, left, Michelle Zhang and Brandon Yuan, both of Elk Grove Village, and Autumn Maxwell of Schaumburg pledge to help stop bullying.

      With Dee Dee Sutherland in the back, Jarod Patton of Carpentersville, left, Michelle Zhang and Brandon Yuan, both of Elk Grove Village, and Autumn Maxwell of Schaumburg pledge to help stop bullying.
    Courtesy Erin Brooks/Harper College

 

Officials with Harper College sponsored an anti-bullying seminar last week, but not just for parents. Children themselves were part of the target audience, and they got into it.

The presentation took place after the InZone camps let out, which this summer has drawn more than 1,500 children.

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Not all of them attended, of course, but many turned out for the session held in the college's main gym. That's where Dee Dee Sutherland of Hawthorn Woods spoke about the book she cowrote with Pat Trutner called "There's Always a Bully."

The presentation came one week after Facebook and Time Warner announced they were teaming up to tackle bullying with a joint campaign that encourages people to speak out.

Their series of spots on the Internet, TV, radio and in major magazines urges kids to "Stop Bullying: Speak Up."

Sutherland's small paperback came about after she and Trutner saw their own children bullied. They saw firsthand how big an impact it had on their children's development, and they set out to stop it and empower other victims.

Sutherland is a graphic designer by profession, but she also has been a facilitator for The Rainbows Group, both here and in New York, which helps children whose parents were divorced or have died.

She also told the group how she was bullied as a child, and she wished she had known of some of the tools she promotes now.

This was Sutherland's second presentation in as many months. In June, she told Harper employees and the college-aged counselors of InZone how to identify the signs of bullying and the tools to make it stop.

"We haven't had a big problem with it here, but we wanted to take a proactive stance," says Kevin Hahn, InZone director.

At last week's presentation, Sutherland kept her talk simple and direct to better reach the children in her audience.

Autumn Maxwell, 13, of Schaumburg was one of the first to jump up and buy her book at the end of the presentation. She admitted later that she had been bullied in sixth grade, and that she never told an adult until it became unbearable.

"You're afraid to say something," she said. "If you speak up, you'll be bullied, and if you don't you'll be bullied."

Yet, after hearing Sutherland, she felt better. So much so, she volunteered to hold up one of her props.

"I like how she kept it simple and gave us the tools to stop the bullying," she said.

Sutherland encouraged children who think they are being bullied to look the accuser in the eye and ask them to stop it. Then, she told them to walk away and tell a friend or an adult. They will help, she added.

"Have the confidence to stand tall and say that you don't like it," Sutherland said. "You have to use your own voice to stop it."

Kyle Brod, 13, of Streamwood said he hoped to muster some of that confidence. He admitted afterward that he had been bullied in school and that he came to learn ways to end it.

"She gave me some ideas," he said, "and some motivation of what to do in an actual situation."

Sutherland hammered home that children hold the power to help themselves.

"You are not the problem," she told them pointedly. "It's not your fault. We all need to move past this code of silence."

Near the end, she had volunteers hold up placards reading STOP, which are an acronym for her key message.

"Say no and look them in the eye and walk away," Sutherland said.

"Tell a teacher, parent or friend, because they will help.

"Object and say, 'Stop being a bully,' and have a friend help stand up for you."

Finally, 'P' stands for the power children hold in their hands.

"Don't let the bully hold the power," she said. "You hold the power to stop it."

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